Citi Habitats

Sales in the City – How to Prepare Your Home for the Change in Season

Brrr! As winter’s chill slowly comes upon us, just as we collectively unearth our favorite sweaters and sip pumpkin-flavored beverages, we should also cozy up our apartments. Here are some tips we’ve garnered from design, staging and sales experts on how to warm up your home without sacrificing the chic!

Anjie Cho, Architect and Interior Designer, Holistic Spaces
Cathy Hobbs, Interior Designer, Cathy Hobbs Design Recipes
Cristina Dos Santos, Interior Designer, Cristina Dos Santos LLC
George Case, Licensed Real Estate Salesperson, Citi Habitats



Winter Greening

According to Anjie Cho, architect and feng shui interior designer, one should pay close attention to respecting the environment and conserving energy (and money), even before aesthetics. She suggests removing your air conditioner because air infiltrates through its vents; if it is impossible to remove it or if storage is a big problem, fit the vent with a fabric cover that can easily be found in a hardware store. Do not use plastic, as it is not breathable and may cause condensation, which can damage your appliance. “Heavy drapes will also help to keep the cold air out and heat in,” Cho advises. “Weather sealing on doors or getting a door sweep (or even putting a heavy towel at the bottom of the door) will block the gap, preventing cold air from getting in.” “Don’t forget about your foliage!” Cho adds. As it gets colder it is a good time to move plants from window sills or outdoor spaces. “The extreme difference between temperatures can kill your house plants. Instead, move greenery a foot or two from the sills or doors, or get an indoor grow light set on a timer for the colder months.”

Speaking of plants, George Case, a licensed real estate salesperson at Citi Habitats, suggests getting floral arrangements of seasonal offerings to help bring the outside in. Think tall branches, evergreens, eucalyptus. The smell will be amazing and conjure up images of the holidays.

Designer and stager Cathy Hobbs of Cathy Hobbs Design Recipes agrees, “Why not brighten up your décor by placing cut flower stems in colored bottles or short jelly or canning jars?” She adds that potted succulents– plants having some parts that are more than normally thickened and fleshy, usually to retain water, such as cacti– can be a nice alternative to leaves and foliage.

“Succulents are quite hardy. I especially love them because they last a long time and don’t require a lot of care. They are not only beautiful, but they look fabulous in everything from rubbed terra cotta pots to glass vessels filled with stones and moss.”

Yule Log

Once your environmental concerns are addressed, it is time to focus on the visual and tactile warmth of your space. If one is lucky enough to have a fireplace—either decorative or woodburning— a stack of fresh-cut birch logs “creates a narrative— bringing to mind cozy nights around a fire—and will be the visual focal point of your room,” explains Case.

Let There Be Light

Ambient lighting is important as the days grow shorter and darker. Adding low-key fill light—ancillary lighting that fills in where primary lights cannot – will not only highlight areas of the home that may get ‘lost in the shadows,’ but it’s a good way to romance a space on a grey, chilly day,” adds Case.

Seasonal Scents

Scents play a big role in the energy of one’s space. “I love introducing vanilla-based diffusers or candles with Bordeaux or fig notes into a home during the colder months,” says Cristina Dos Santos, an interior designer in NYC. With the prevalence of wool garb and textiles during the coldweather season, it is important to use cedar hangers, closet or trunks to prevent damage from moths. The added plus? That great scent permeating through the home on a cold day, conjuring up thoughts of brisk jaunts in the snow-covered woods.

Textural Healing

Thin, gauzy or flimsy bedding and curtains, be gone! “Winter is all about thick knits, fur, and wool styles,” says Dos Santos. “Exchange summer pillows and throws for rich and warm fabrics.”

“Interesting decorative pillows made from colorful scarves in gorgeous, fun, winter prints make for an affordable fabric choice when it comes to throw pillows,” says Hobbs.

She adds, “One of my favorite patterns right now is toile. Toile originated in France and typically depicts a scene or a story. Many toile fabrics also come in a myriad of colors (including warm colors like reds and oranges) and in some cases can even be reflective of a particular season.”

Hobbs sings the praises of velvet as well, whether cut or crushed. “I not only love the look and feel of velvet but also the versatility and richness of the fabric.”

Hazy Shade of Winter:
The Dos and Don’ts of Color

Christina Dos Santos says color is a major way to modify an apartment’s look for the change in season. “Add deep/bold colors to enrich your space. Changing your accessories to deep charcoals or earth tones brings warmth and comfort to your home.” Here are some easy and quick ways to update your home for the cold-weather season that don’t require a major commitment and can be easily updated every season–all according to Cathy Hobbs.

• Do consider using neutrals such as black, white, charcoal, gray or beige and accent them with a “bold color.”
• Do select a signature bold accent piece and build a color palette around it.
• Do consider an accent wall if you’re afraid to commit to a strong accent color in the entire room. You will probably want to change your colors somewhat for spring again.
• Do bring color into your décor through accent pieces such as artwork and accessories.

• Don’t just tie yourself into one shade of a bold color; consider tints and tones of the same color.
• Don’t use colors that are too grayed down or muted.
• Don’t use colors that are too warm in small rooms; it can make a room look smaller.
• Don’t paint your ceiling a color; it will automatically close in a space.

Sales STORIES in the City

Top producers across NYC share some of their favorite sales stories.

NICK JABBOUR, CRS, Nest Seekers International

I was with a longtime client viewing a $7 million boutique condo conversion on the Upper East Side. My client, a hedge funder, had come on his lunch break and was in full suit, as was I.

The project was under construction and had plywood and fencing on the front. We went upstairs to view the penthouse, and during the time that we were there the construction crew finished up for the day, locking the fence and plywood gate from the outside with a chain and padlock. We went to leave and found that we were, in fact, locked inside.

The selling broker made frantic attempts to reach the foreman, but with no luck. After about 30 minutes, someone did come by with what they believed was the key, but it wasn’t the right one. Tensions growing higher, with the need for the client and I to return to work, we began to look around for things we could use to get over this eight-foot fence.

Finally, the client and I began assembling a teetering staircase of sorts, composed of bags of concrete, a toolbox, two buckets, and cinderblocks made it to a point that we were able to straddle the fence (again, both in suits) and launch ourselves onto the ground. We both landed feet first, luckily, and took off, leaving the selling broker to figure out what to do on his own.

Needless to say, this property wasn’t the one.

Susan Holman, AKAM

A number of years ago, I was selling a two-bedroom in a Lenox Hill high-rise co-op. The owner was a European avante-garde sculptor who lived in Germany, and the place showed like a dungeon even with bright sunlight coming through. The whole interior was comprised of trendy black spray painted pieces of furniture that looked like they were used for submission and domination play. It was hilarious to see how varied the clients’ reactions were. Some were so polite they pretended the furnishings weren’t there; others laughed and pondered why they were in this apartment at all.  In reality, it was an art installation and it achieved its purpose of shocking everyone who saw it. Ironically, the apartment sold for asking price to a very reserved young couple that completely gut renovated it. They saw beyond the unusual décor and pretended it was not there.  Talk about a makeover! This apartment totally transformed into a gracious Upper East Side sprawling abode with not a single remnant of what was before.

Here’s another:

I worked with a woman who wanted a pied a terre with a view for her dog, a poodle named Puffy. Their price range started at around $4 million.  We searched high and low and the dog would literally start barking loudly when it liked the view! We must have looked at 70 apartments and Puffy would bark when a view made her happy.  She even signaled to the owner when she was done and wanted to go home. Everyone in the office said I would never close this sale because the poodle–a miniature poodle, no less–would be so fussy and impossible to please. Apparently Puffy had great taste and proved them wrong; they ended up raising their budget from $4m to $9.6m and finally settled on a cool sprawling West Village loft with a stellar view of the Manhattan from the big bay window, including stellar Hudson River views from the floor-to-ceiling windows.

Nataliya Fullerton, City Connections Realty

“While I was doing onsite sales for a Brooklyn Heights development, I was walling an apartment that was a $3.5m 3400sf duplex in a beautiful converted garage building with doorman and private resident indoor parking.

A family that was not yet working with a broker owned a condo in a new development in DUMBO and were looking for more space. Apparently their hardwood floors warped shortly after they moved in and it was such a hassle to get the developer to replace them that their main priority was to ensure this did not happen again.

At our open house, the whole family walked over to a corner of the room, took off their shoes and socks, and started to slowly trace the floor with their feet, looking for imperfections. If one of them thought something was off, they would bounce over the spot a few times. It was quite comical. Luckily it was a fairly quiet open house!

In the end, they actually really liked the floors but the layout of the unit did not work for them. ”

Michelle Sedlitz, Citi Habitats

“I had a lovely couple from London looking to buy a pied a terre in NYC.  The husband was ADAMANT about not buying in Murray Hill.  He only wanted to live on the Upper East Side and would not consider anything else.  He told me that he just hates everything about Murray Hill.  It doesn’t offer the elegance that the Upper East Side offers.  The element of people is different as well.  I think I remember him saying that it was more of a working neighborhood than a residential neighborhood.  What was really ironic about this story, is that we communicated for a few months and he would repeatedly remind me of his thoughts of Murray Hill.

Yes when we visited our last scheduled appointment, while in the cab, a broker called me and asked if I had any customers for a listing she was marketing at 45 Park Avenue.  I said that I didn’t at the moment but that I couldn’t talk then because I was with clients.    She told me to bring them by.  I told my customers that it was worth seeing being that was their first day looking. I also explained that although it is in Murray Hill, and I know he doesn’t want that location, it will give him more insight as to the market.   He agreed.

As we’re riding, I heard a gasp from the back seat.  His wife said ‘Don’t mind him.  He always gets like that when he sees the Chrysler bldg.  He loves that bldg!’

He said ‘It lets me know that I’m in NYC, which I love!’

I gave them a bit of information about the apartment: It is a 970 sq. ft. one-bedroom, 1.5 bath condo built in 2006 priced at $1.8m. I explained it is located on the 21st floor of the building.

We arrived at 45 Park and we all gasped!  The central view from the living room windows was a panoramic picture of the Chrysler Building!

They bought the apartment!


Kelly Kreth

Kelly Kreth

Every few issues, top producers across NYC share some of their favorite sales stories with us, so we can share them with you.

If you’re an agent and would like to share something, feel free to contact us via our editorial page.



Final 2012 residencyNY Roundtable

Ryan Serhant
Ryan Serhant
Gary Malin
Gary Malin
Douglas Heddings
Douglas Heddings

Ryan Serhant Nest Seekers International, Executive Vice President
Gary Malin Citi Habitats,  President
Douglas Heddings The Heddings Property Group, President
David Maundrell, President

1  What types of marketing strategies are you planning for the Fall?

Malin: Citi Habitats recently underwent a complete rebranding initiative.    We changed our logo, our tagline and mission statement, and are currently undergoing a gut renovation of many of our branch offices.  As a result of these big changes, we are taking a multi-faceted approach to marketing this fall.   We have purchased billboard space around the city, and will be doing some print advertising.  However, the bulk of our advertising expenditure will go to online initiatives.  It’s simply where the clientele is.  Over 80% of home seekers begin their search online, so it makes sense to have a large presence there.

Heddings :Informative agent newsletters –  including regular, real-time market updates and events for both buyers and sellers – are on our agenda.  Of course, Heddings Property Group’s social media activity will remain prominent aspect of our marketing campaign.

Serhant: For starters, we are giving away about 1000 pumpkins out of our office on Reade Street on October 13th.  There are a lot of families in Tribeca so we try to be as kid friendly of an office as possible (the whole office is a mural of the cities of the world with fun things for kids to find).  We are also pushing out a large advertising campaign surrounding our recent successes with record prices per square foot in certain buildings.  The market is incredibly active, and success begets success.

Maundrell:  SEO and email marketing are two marketing tools of prominence for us as we continue to build the brand. These tools are exciting because of the low cost / high results. We are also expanding our presence on Facebook as well as opening a second office in Cobble Hill Brooklyn this Fall to increase our storefront presence.

2  I believe that it is very important that consumers understand how they are being represented in a transaction. What do you do to insure this?  Do you use the Agency Disclosure Form to accomplish this?

Heddings : First of all, it is imperative to explain the Agency Disclosure Form and what it means specifically for a buyer or seller.  It is at this point that we explain our fiduciary responsibility and our allegiance to parties in a transaction.  However, at Heddings Property Group, we believe that, following this discussion, our actions are just as important – if not more important – than the words on the disclosure form. Our actions are inspired by our clients’/customers’ best interests, and it is important to establish trust and make clear that we strive to put their desires before our own.

Serhant: We always use Agency Disclosure forms.  We have to by law.

Malin:  Clients are required to read and sign the agency disclosure form by New York State law, and I think it does a pretty effective job explaining whose interests a broker represents.   Clarity is a very important component of our business, and we pride ourselves in our dedication to customer service.  Our training program is rigorous and the most comprehensive in the industry.  Our brokers are trained to always exceed expectations for their clients, regardless if they are a landlord, renter, buyer or seller.

Maundrell:  It is always a priority that agents always follow all NYS Guidelines. However, it is also extremely important that buyers / renters are fully aware of who is representing them.  I think the law that went into place last year enforces that agents fully explain who they are representing early enough in the process that there should not be any confusion. We have implemented many checks and balances internally to ensure the Agency Disclosure Forms are signed, but the key will always be training the agents.

3  It seems that many new developments are being brought to market after a lengthy time of inactivity. Are you finding this?  Are you working on any new projects?

Maundrell: is bringing several new condominium projects to the market  between now and the end of the year. Most of these projects are smaller boutique developments, which buyers really are gravitating toward these days. This fall we are seeing an average of nearly 300 people attending our Grand Opening parties for condominiums and we expect that trend to continue for our upcoming developments in Greenpoint and Williamsburg.

Serhant: Financing is easier now, for developers and end users, so we’re seeing projects come back to life.  We’re actively working with a few developers to get projects off the ground.  The market is in need of new inventory. It’s dead out there.

Heddings : There aren’t enough new projects to even make a dent in the dearth of inventory.  We need supply!  One57 is great for the billionaires and those of us who are fortunate enough to sell there, but ask the Upper West Side couple how their search for a Classic 7 is going and they will surely weep as they explain the lack of properties from which to choose.

Malin: Market conditions in both the city’s rental and sales markets have improved over the last few quarters.  Projects that have been dormant are now ripe for completion, given the public’s demand for new housing options.  The entire far West Side is poised for an incredible revitalization with the massive Hudson Yards project, and the Queens waterfront in Long Island City will be completely transformed with new residential towers in the next decade.  Don’t forget about the area surrounding the Barclays Center, it’s another hot spot for new development – both residential and commercial.

The outer boroughs are hot.  Manhattan has an “overflow” effect, meaning when people get priced off the island, they look for alternatives, generally along main transit routes.  As a result, many neighborhoods in the outer boroughs – for example, Astoria, Queens and Bushwick, Brooklyn, are seeing a surge in new residents.

CHMG, our new development marketing arm, is currently leasing a variety of projects, most notably, the New York by Gehry tower at 8 Spruce Street in Manhattan.  It’s the tallest residential building in North America, and has been attracting new residents from all over the world.  We’re currently 87% leased.  We also just bought to market the first phase of a 2 building complex at 11-15 Broadway in Astoria.  In addition we recently re-launched a building on East 28th Street called The Grayson after a complete gut-renovation.  It looks spectacular.

4  As the sales market is heating up, how are you finding the rental market?

Serhant: The rental market is trading higher than we’ve ever seen it, which in turn creates a more active investor buying market.

Maundrell:  The team is finding that the rental market is as hot as ever and could realistically be a record year again. We have seen rents rising approximately 10% annually for the past 3 years.

Heddings : The strong rental market coupled with low vacancy rates is fueling the sales market.  In many instances, it is once again cheaper to buy than it is to rent.   Interest rates remain at historic lows, the NYC real estate market remains a perceived safe haven for foreign money and buyers in general are attracted to NYC for all that it has to offer.  Let’s also not forget how livable this city has become with low crime, more green spaces, excellent schools, cultural events, and an incredible transportation system that makes the city easily navigable.

Malin: The rental market has reached historic highs in terms of pricing.  We have even surpassed the pre-recession heights of the market in terms of what landlords are able to charge for available units.  At its core, the Big Apple is a renter-centric city.  Give or take 70% of Manhattan apartments are rental properties, which is high in comparison to other cities.

The current tight rental market can be frustrating for would-be tenants.  I advise clients to make a list of “needs” versus “wants,” be flexible and open to looking outside your target area, and begin the search ready to transact.  Home seekers should have their relevant paperwork and funds ready before they start looking at apartments.  The rental market moves fast.

5  What would be the single most important piece of advice that you would give to a seller considering selling their property?   How about a buyer who was considering purchasing a home?

Malin:  Apartment shoppers are more informed about the real estate market than they ever have been.  For this reason, it’s important for sellers to price their home in line with current market conditions. Overpricing a home is a big mistake, but a very common one.  The peak time for buyer interest is when an apartment just hits the market, and homes that have sat on the market for a while can be a “red flag” for many would-be buyers.

For buyers, they should be sure to get pre-approved for a mortgage before beginning the search.  Bank qualification requirements are notably more strict than they have been in recent years.  However, interest rates are at historic lows. If you have the means to buy, now is a great time to make the leap to ownership.  Manhattan real estate is always a wise investment; and the lifestyle and opportunities available in our city are like nowhere else in the world.

Heddings : Inventory is LOW and if you are considering selling in the next six to 12 months, you may want to step up and list sooner rather than later. If you’re a prospective buyer, make sure to evaluate your priorities to make sure buying a home in this market makes sense for you.  Consider the desired length of ownership, whether financing or not, current living situation and, of course, financial health.

Serhant: I give the same advice to every seller:  Price to sell.  If you don’t want to sell, don’t do it.  If you do, then price right.  Buyers need to pull the trigger.   People are too afraid.  It’s just real estate.

Maundrell:  It is very important that you trust your agent is analyzing the market correctly and pricing your property in accordance to not just closed data, but also more of the real time activity happening. Pricing is a major component of the marketing strategy for any type of listing. Overpricing a listing will lead the property to becoming stale.

When buying a home, make sure you are working with a reputable and knowledgeable person regarding financing; it’s a common false belief that going to one of the major banks is the best approach. We have found that in many circumstances independent mortgage brokers who offer several banks as options is a great opportunity for many consumers as they offer some flexibility. Major banks have very specific types of criteria and property they will lend on, we see our customers finding out these specifics months into the process.